DVD and Blu-ray Reviews

Did You Know 'Mission: Impossible 2' is a Remake of Hitchcock's 'Notorious'? Here, Have a Look...

Separated by 55 years, have a look at how storytelling has changed

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: Paramount Home Entertainment

Fox recently released three Alfred Hitchcock classics on Blu-ray and I've already covered Rebecca in my dissection of Hitchcock's use of flashbacks and then I explored Spellbound and my three favorite aspects of that film. Now I turn to Notorious, and while Rebecca may be the only film from Hitchcock to ever win Oscar's Best Picture, Notorious may be one of the helmer's most beloved features. Curiously enough, did you know it is actually the unofficial source material for the most loathed installment in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise? Not that you would know by the film's credits...

When I popped the Notorious Blu-ray into the player, I first noticed it features a strong improvement when it comes to image quality when compared to the previously released DVD edition, but it wasn't too far into the film that I began to realize it held a lot in common with a certain film featuring Ethan Hunt.

I'd seen Notorious only once before and in brief, it centers on the bond formed between government agent T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant) and Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Berman), a woman whose father has just been convicted as a German spy. Devlin approaches Alicia, asking her to help the government in a mission spying on one of her father's friends, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), a man that had a crush on Alicia in the past. She's asked to spark up a relationship in order to obtain information needed to bring him down, but, of course, the romance between Devlin and Alicia soon adds additional tension.

For anyone that's seen Mission: Impossible II you're already seeing the similarities between the story described above and Ethan Hunt's second "impossible" mission. What you don't see is to what extent these two films are actually similar, but before that here's some brief background on the two scripts.

The screenplay for Notorious was written by Ben Hecht based on a story idea Hitchcock outlined after producer David O. Selznick handed Hitchcock the 1921 two-part short story "The Song of the Dragon" by John Taintor Foote. The credits for Mission: Impossible II give all story credit to Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Generations duo Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga with a screenplay by Robert Towne whose credits go as far back as screenplays for Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown. Keep that in mind as I break down these two films, side-by-side over the course of the next 13 image comparisons.

Let's begin...

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment / Paramount Home Entertainment

After Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) gets done with his rock climbing intro he's sent to recruit Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton) for a mission to get close to rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) after he stole the plans for a new virus called Chimera and its cure. Ethan and Nyah have never met and we get the stylized introduction courtesy of director John Woo at a lavish house party in Seville.

In Notorious it's the same deal, Devlin and Alicia have never met and following the trial convicting her father Alicia holds a party for friends, which Devlin finds himself conveniently invited to by what are assumed to be mutual acquaintances.

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment / Paramount Home Entertainment

The events that immediately follow the introductions in both film are a little bit different, but they both involve dangerous driving sequences, both of which end with the female leads in bed, though this is where there is a clear divide in the two films in terms of their approach to sexuality.

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment / Paramount Home Entertainment

The crazy car sequence in M:I 2 leads to a passionate kiss as the car hangs off the side of a cliff and ends with Ethan and Nyah in bed together. Ethan is able to convince Nyah to help him with his mission and the bond between the two is forming.

The car sequence in Notorious was treacherous because Alicia had been drinking so Devlin drives her home and lets her sleep it off. No hanky panky takes place, but Devlin too is able to convince Alicia to help him with his assignment.

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment / Paramount Home Entertainment

Hands on hips gentleman...

After both Ethan and Devlin have convinced the ladies to help them out they go back to their superiors for further instructions at which point both men are informed the ladies are to rekindle the fires of past relationships. Jealousy obviously sets in and Devlin says, "I don't know if she'll do it." Ethan's response isn't much different saying, "I don't think I can get her to do it."

Naturally, both end up trying to convince their respective ladies and where do they do it?

Notorious vs. Mission Impossible 2
Photo: MGM Home Entertainment / Paramount Home Entertainment

Why, they both do it on their hotel balcony overlooking their foreign locale, Notorious taking place in Rio de Janiero and M:I 2 in Seville. Both ladies accept.

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  • Dan

    Congrats on the most boring, pointless article I've ever read. How about reporting actual news like 99% of other movie sites do?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Thank you for letting me know I'm doing things right. I would hate to be like all the other movie sites out there.

      • http://hypable.com Jeremy Baril

        BURN!

      • Billy W

        I like this website precisely because it has amusing articles like this, that are different from other movie websites

      • Dan

        Yeah, comparing a Hitchcock masterpiece to a sub-par late 90's action pic from John Woo; brilliant work. Guess I'm just a troll.

        • Tom

          You guessed right.

          Great article Brad, gonna check out notorious now.

        • MWHollywood85

          Clearly you are just that otherwise you wouldn't have posted.
          I thought this was interesting. I also find MI:2 enjoyable. I'm not saying its good, but it wasn't meant to be best picture fodder anyway. One thing I'm reminded of by this article is that the people who made MI:2 ARE proffessionals. I have no doubt that they have seen and studied the classics in great detail and probably did mean to emulate Notorious. I don't think anyone sets out with the goal of making a "bad movie" and I've always thought there was a solid story hiding somewhere in MI:2. It's just that not everybody can excecute a film like Hitchcock.

        • Christian

          Perhaps not a troll per se, just a moron.

    • Danny

      Well obvisously the headline caught your attention since you read the article... This one brst things I've read on this site... If you don'tt like these kinds of breakdowns of films, then srick to the other sites that are strictly film news. Go troll else where.

      Good job Brad. I'm now inspired to watch both movies... I have never seen Notorious and it's been a long time since I've seen M:I-2.

    • Ben

      Hey Dan, nobody put a gun to your head and forced you to read this article. It was a very interesting piece about 2 films that i thought had very little to do with each other.

      The great thing about RoS is they shake things up and combine basic news with cool stuff like this.

  • Connor

    Nice piece, Notorious is probably my favorite Hitchcock film, it's so timeless. Agree with you 100% on modern film makers adding compassion and subtlety to add an aspect of storytelling we haven't seen in a while.

  • Jimmy Diamies

    In MI:2 Sean is suspicious and poses as Hunt to get the truth out of Nyah. He doesn't overhear a conversation. Just thought I'd point that out, hopefully I didn't read it wrong. I liked the article, MI:2 is my least favorite in the series and now I like it even less for it's blatant plagarism.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Ugh, you are absolutely right. Completely forgot about that. I watched the movie a week ago and when I was putting this together completely forgot how that scene actually played out.

      Thanks, fixed it.

  • kyle coley

    Brad, you should do this more

  • Susan

    Great piece.

  • Saint

    Thank you so much for the comparison!

    Another psychological element in Notorious missing from MI:II was Alicia's past with both men and alcohol. Two things which greatly complicated her already intricate relationship with Devlin, her undertaking of the assignment, and consequently Devlin's last-second rescue.

    Devlin built a relationship with Alica and then, once she was sober and ready to be monogamous, betrayed her by asking her to be a spy, marry another man. So later, when they're on the park bench Alica allows Devlin to believe she is off the wagon because she feels he's treated her like a whore, and Devlin, who has treated her poorly to deny his feelings for her, is unable to realize she's been poisoned.

    Throwing Ethan and Nyah into bed as a shortcut created a purely sexual chemistry instead of a psychological one. What may seem like a minor change actually left out the impetus for the final act and the wonderfully tension-ridden payoff. The relationship in MI:II becomes a cringe-worthy MacGuffin.

    But hey, there were some doves. And things blew up.

  • mfan

    I feel Mission Impossible 2 is not really a good film because I always have problems remembering the plot along with any scenes in the movie. Wheras I easily remember the plot / scenes of the others.

  • Darth Agnan

    Have you seen Gunga Din, Brad? You could do the same thing fr Gunga Din and Temple of Doom...

    • Carson Dyle

      Set in the same place and they both feature protagonists fighting Thugees, but if Indiana Jones is Cary Grant, is Willy Doug Fairbanks Jr, and is Short Round Victor McLaglen? If so, who is Willy trying to marry that Short Round and Indy are trying to stop? And who is Gunga Din?!

  • Jeff

    Meh, I still like it as a John Woo movie.

  • Sean

    Please continue to do this. Suggestions for next up:

    Risky Business vs The Girl Next Door
    Total Recall vs The 6th Day
    Rear Window vs Disturbia (another hitchcock classic!)

    • andrew bronson

      or 90% of tom cruise characters to 90% of tom cruise characters --- when leonardo dicaprio takes a role on, the actor disapears --- or more on point, matt damon in bourne and matt damon in anything else---actor gone character is all you see --- i cannot see tom cruise without seeing tom cruise

  • j glover

    Okay, so I just got home from school where I am taking a honors film class studying Hitchcock films. Guess which one we saw today. Notorious! I immediately saw the comparisons and came home to see if others had also noticed the similarities (rip off?) and pulled up your post from yesterday. How cool. I am sending your article to my professor. Thanks by the way for the pictures. Great job.

  • Film Ninja

    Aha, I knew there was a reason I felt like MI-2 was so predictable when I first saw it. I thought it was because of my familiarity with John Woo movies, but in fact I'd already seen the whole movie, back when it was called "Notorious". At least it was different enough for most viewers not to catch on, as you did. Interesting article.

  • Crusader

    Also, the chase scene is similar to To Catch A Thief, and Nyah even mentions "A thief to catch a thief" while they are lying in bed together.